Google+ Authentic Parenting: Should Parents Apologize? (rerun)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Should Parents Apologize? (rerun)

Some weeks ago, I had written an article about dealing with parental mistakes, and one of the steps I suggested was apologizing to your child.
I think apologizing is a good means to show your child

  • that you are remorseful
  • that you know you made a mistake
  • that you are not infallible
  • that when you make mistakes, you are not above all the others and you can’t just ‘get away with it”

A comment on my Facebook page said that this particular person didn’t agree with apologizing to your child. She said her mother constantly apologized but it had no meaning in the end.

Image: Runran on Flickr
I know all too well that not all apologies are created equal, and when someone is being apologetic without change or remorse, it doesn’t amount to much.
Apologies only work when the child sees you make an active effort to change things. When you are not about to change, when you don’t particularly think you did something wrong, indeed doesn’t amount to much.

There is a huge difference between a genuine apology and someone who has adapted a general state of being apologetic, in order to void blame, “I apologized, so Nobody needs to point fingers at me”. Hearing constant apologies for the same behavior sends the message to your child that apologies make it all right, no matter your behavior.

However, if you are truly committed to your parenting project, to change and adapt, then apologies do belong in your parental toolbox. Otherwise, you should rethink your approach.


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8 comments:

  1. I agree, apologies are only good when meant sincerely. And the risk is that the child learns apologies make it all right while there is no need to change the behavior. There is, however, I believe, an even greater risk, that is that one cannot trust the person who apologizes. This in my opinion is an even graver risk; undermining the general trust in people is severe and should not be taken lightly.
    When a parent apologizes (sincerely) for a mistake the child learns that behavior can be negotiated if communication is right. This is a big one in my book.
    Beatrice, Parenting At Its Best
    www.ParentingAtItsBest.com

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  2. "There is a huge difference between a genuine apology and someone who has adapted a general state of being apologetic, in order to void blame, “I apologized, so Nobody needs to point fingers at me”. Hearing constant apologies for the same behavior sends the message to your child that apologies make it all right, no matter your behavior."

    Right on! I have also used this argument when trying to explain why making a child say "I'm sorry" as a consequence to a misbehavior leads to children quickly saying the phrase when they've done something "wrong". The child isn't really sorry and they haven't learned anything about their behavior. All they've learned is that saying this phrase means they avoid getting in trouble.

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  3. If apologies from her mother were falling on deaf ears to that Facebook commenter, obviously there was no commitment to change accompanying the "I'm sorry". It's really sad thinking that a mother could hurt her child over and over again and not put effort into trying to do better.

    I never hesitate to apologize to my daughter if I'm in the wrong because that's what decent people do in life, they admit that they made a mistake, apologize genuinely, and try hard not to make the same mistake again.

    That's the kind of person that I want my daughter to be, so that's the example I need to set for her to follow.

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree with you. With all of life's trials and tribulations parents are bound to be infallible. However, if one is aware if their mistakes and put forth an effort to revise their actions, that's where inert morals are awaken.

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  4. I remember when I was a kid and someone made me apologize to,for instance, my brother for calling him names. I was never told why I had to sai "I'm sorry", I just knew that saying those magic words got me off the hook. I think that, often, kids who were raised this way grow into adults who do the same thing. I was lucky enough to have learned that those are just words and, without meaning behind them, have absolutely no bearing on our relationships. So, when I do apologize to my kids (or anyone) I always make a point to explain why I'm sorry. My kids do the same now, and I know that, without my explanations, they'd just think of those two little words as magic words, too. Saying you're sorry to your kids means more than just "I'm sorry"!

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  5. The modeling point is a great one too... I should have included it in this post. Thank you for the great discussion!

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  6. Haven't read all the replies, but coming from the opposite upbringing - a mother who NEVER apologized and still can't, yeah, we should apologize - and mean it - and try to change the mistaken behavior.

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  7. Yes, it's terribly difficult to have a mother who can't apologize even for the most hurtful behavior. I have been as loving as I can, but I have had to ask her not to contact me anymore....and that feels much better (except for the guilt)

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